Is your Business Intelligence tool really Intelligent?

According to Forrester blog a typical BI tool costs $1,50,000/- and ETL costs about the same. Services, hardware and implementation generally scale up to 5 times the software cost. It is after investing so much  that most businesses realize that the solution they have purchased is not really future ready. As the business expands, number of users increases, data grows, databases change, more software’s are incorporated and new technology adopted, it is observed that a BI solution is unable to incorporate future expectations. Of course, most BI software’s are more or less generic in nature with features such as report, dashboard, adhoc, cache, security, etc. What ALL of these tools lack is FUTURE-READY ARCHITECTURE. This either results in business needs being compromised or dropped, or use of best of breed solutions or development of their own solution or outsourcing. The result is wastage of money and time—search for new BI tool, technical resources, implementation of the solution or usage of a best of breed solution.

If you are able to connect with this situation, you may need to relook your BI tool or BI implementation!

Why should a business user adjust his requirements when ideally, it should be the other way around?

Also the expectations from a BI tool keeps on increasing and since generally the tools are not able to live up to the growing expectations hence they expire. This throws up an important question—Are Business Intelligence tools really intelligent?

An ideal case would be to have a BI tool which is future ready and developer friendly, thus it’s flexible and extensible. With the growing and ever-changing business requirements, IT staff will then be able to accommodate the advanced requirements by adding features, adopt new technology and justify the investment made. Such a BI framework will not be bound by any tool or technology limitation and can adapt to any sort of requirement—current or future. It will be a developer’s paradise given the liberty to do or create anything and business users’ dream since whatever they seek can be achieved without compromises with no incremental cost. This will also remove dependence on the BI vendor for any additional functionality or patches/releases based on their product roadmap, since your own team can add functionality.

Below mentioned are some of the instances wherein such a need is felt:

1. Can I add new data type as source:

Most BI tools support commonly used data sources, which are limited in number. If any new database type is to be added as a data-source, it may not be possible without the database vendor providing the connect. Also in case if the data storage technology is different like Hadoop the reliance is on the BI vendor to come up with a new patch or version. BI vendors who have shifted their focus from product innovation to sales, such requests generally take a lot of time for execution. Wouldn’t it be great if the developer himself was able to add data sources, API, etc., and enhance the tool?

2. There’s a new API in the market. Can I fetch data from there?

BI tools generally come with native connectors to certain popular APIs. But, with changing times and requirements, new and more relevant APIs come up. Fetching data from other APIs than the pre-installed ones may be impossible or often very difficult. In such a scenario, one may feel the BI tools available today are not very future ready.

3. Charting options are few, limiting my advanced & analytics usage

After connecting to database, reports/dashboard are created. Most of the BI tools come with out-of-box charting options which are limited and may not suffice the requirement. Though some BI tools allow external integration of charts, they often forgo other functionalities such as exporting, email scheduling etc.

These limited charting options affect companies/people who are looking for advanced functionalities and might be working on predictive analytics and trend analytics like data scientists and statisticians who are looking for statistical and advanced charting. A BI tool should allow charts to be integrated inside the report, dashboard, adhoc, etc., with ability to define inter-panel communication, input filters, etc. Also, even if  integration of charts is external, other functionalities such as emailing, exporting, trigger, etc., should work fit like a fiddle..

4. Reports Dashboards are cliché…. but I don’t have more options!!

Not only the plain vanilla reports and dashboards, a BI tool should be future ready enough for other visualization options like infographic, what-if analysis, mash-up, cubes, scorecards or any other type which might come up in future

5. BI Software UI looks so very alien!

Often, companies have their own products/software with certain navigation options, icons and color, adhering to a chosen theme. With BI also being introduced to their solution stack, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the BI tool can be customized to match the design template of their existing solution stack, i.e., option to change navigation way, repository access, icons, content menu, color, text, theme, file extensions, etc.? Such exhaustive white-labelling capabilities can lead to a unified view of all the enterprise applications leading to ease of branding, usage and viewing.

Currently, what most BI tools offer in the name of white labelling is change in the header and footer design, color and text and very limited options.

6. There are so many tools I am compelled to use of single BI Software!

Many of the BI tools come with a number of separate software/hardware to be used like the server, designer tool, plug-ins, community plug-ins, etc. BI companies release enhancements within these, which at times, lead to compatibility issues. Here’s food for thought: What If using the browser itself, we are able to execute everything exactly as the way the BI solution is being accessed? Imagine… no more downloading heavy software’s, no more compatibility issues, separate purchase of tools, etc.

7. BI vendor engagement never seems to end – and so their billing!

Licensing presents complex issues. Licensing may be core-based or user-based or server-based or mix-matched or data size-based. Also there generally are separate licenses for separate tools like designer, server, plug-in, etc. Sluggish performance of the solution leads to increase in core server, and hence the licenses. Maintenance cost, development cost and renewal cost are top-ups. Prices are not benchmarked and in many cases, pricing is not crystal clear and often depends on the salesperson and the bargain being struck.

8. Adhoc capabilities is not very capable

Adhoc capabilities allow business users to drag, drop and create their own reports and dashboards. Many BI tools are extremely limited here, not allowing or extending features to write custom scripts, add html, add visualization for adhoc, add custom calculated columns, etc.

9. Can I extend core functionality altogether?

Almost all BI tools fail in their ability to extend functionality. BI tools are designed with adoption of the approach that ‘one size fits all’ wherein they are selling only their out of box features. However, every client has a unique requirement. Ability to extend functionality and add features are something that could change the way people view and use BI. Examples of extending functionality could be things like outlook plug-in of BI, offline viewing, directly fetching data from ETL scripts, introducing new exporting options, rule-based system, custom alerting notifications and triggers, custom business processes, etc. This could lead to a paradigm shift in the entire scope of BI. Frankly, sky isn’t the limit!

10. Sequence of events: Wish I could define the flow!

An integrated workflow inside a BI tool could help in defining business processes and thus enhance capabilities. Examples of workflow could be things like ‘run ETL AND create report AND mail to one set of users when value is between 0-50%, AND send it to other set of users when value is greater than 50%’.

11. So many software’s, so many screens.

Companies generally use many software’s, thus a client has to navigate through them based on the requirement. Right now, we can only integrate BI charts inside other applications. It would be real value addition if the BI tool is flexible enough to allow integration of other software’s inside the tool, interact with those software too and BI directly invokes their functions as well!

12. I just can’t find the BI resource

Skilled resource is one of the hard-pressed problems in the BI domain. Resources are far too less and the salary they command is far too much, leading to outsourcing of the projects. Why should there be a separate set of resource for BI at all? Why can’t BI tools be simple enough for a HTML/Java resource too to be able to work on the tool?

Do these situations sound familiar to you? Can you associate or connect with the issues raised? Do you agree with the solutions? Having worked in the BI domain for many years over a number of tools and seen the current limitations, Helical IT Solutions has conjured the miracle BI tool! Watch out—The BETA edition—soon to be launched! Write to us for early access, architecture and other documents at or We would like to hear from YOU regarding features, licensing type, costing and other comments.